Is retention of identity and country worth breaching personal morality and happiness?
This is one of the overarching questions found within Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds, where Wajda uses Poland, his home country, as a means to explore the post-war struggle for power and identity. The film utilizes one of the most important days in the country’s history, May 8th, 1945, the day when the war in Europe ended with Germany’s surrender. In examining his country, the uncertainty of the future is taken as a key element, although Wajda does not give a definite answer to what will become of his country, examining for the sake of exploration. This uncertainty has an interesting dichotomy, which is in the form of a fear of the unknown and the beauty of faith and hope, which is similar to speculation about death and possible afterlife.
Welcome, readers, to the first installment of “Fear Needs No Translation,” a bi-weekly summary and review of international horror. I, Justin Fortes, will be your tour guide, conductor, pilot, and captain through this terrifying adventure. Each week, a different film will be analyzed not only for its plot and visual aesthetic, but also for the underlying socioeconomic and political issues that the work attempts to resolve. As we take this journey through the blood-drenched planes that we call horror cinema, keep in mind that we will be stepping into territories past our own borders. Let’s throw on our cultural sunglasses and buckle up; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
As our train pulls into the station of our first film, please be aware of zombies rampantly roaming about the platform. In the 2016 Korean film, Train to Busan (originally titled Busanaheng), director Sang-ho Yeon takes on the challenge of reviving the undead of George Romero’s nightmarish hellscape for a new generation of horror-heads. With a resume exclusively composed of animated films prior to Busan’s release, Sang-ho surprisingly entered the international horror scene, storming in and showing no sign of slowing down.
While we’re only two months into 2018, the year’s most eagerly anticipated film has already arrived with Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, which is a decidedly stunning addition in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) directs the long-running franchise’s first black-led film with dazzling, groundbreaking results, ultimately becoming a true cause for celebration.
The character of Black Panther (played by the wonderful Chadwick Boseman) made his impressive MCU debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, instantly becoming a fan favorite through the slight appearance. Here, T’Challa, the recently-crowned king of Wakanda — which is a fictional, secretly prosperous African nation in possession of virtually infinite supplies of a made-up super metal called vibranium — is really allowed the chance to be the A-list superhero he was always destined to become. It was no question that this film and this character would end up being an important milestone in the superhero genre as well as an inspiration to countless children around the world, but it’s extremely gratifying to be able to relay that Black Panther is also the stellar solo-outing that so many of us wanted it to be.
Following several delays and months of speculation, the first look at the new entry in executive producer J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield franchise came in the form of an ad spot during the Super Bowl. It was the first-ever official announcement ofJulius Onah’s The Cloverfield Paradox, and with it came the surprise that just two hours later, the film would be released worldwide on Netflix. It‘s an absolutely unheard of, crazy marketing strategy that worked, instantly making me as interested in watching the new film as I was in continuing the excitingly close football game that, for a mere 30 seconds, a brief trailer had managed to steal the spotlight from.
But with the film’s unique release aside, Paradox unfortunately watches quite pitifully. Stocked with a complicated mess of a plot, a large cast of insubstantial characters (even more damning due to the sheer talent of the actors that comprise the roles), and barely any driving force behind its uninteresting narrative, Paradox as a film remains stranded — not so much unlike its focal-point space station and its crew when they’re seemingly left helpless in a separate dimension from their own.
When Kingsman: The Secret Service debuted in early 2015, it was a breath of fresh air for a tired genre that was long overdue for a stylish makeover. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) continued his prowess in successfully adapting comic book-based properties, recruiting a veteran cast with the likes of Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Caine, as well as the star-in-the-making inclusion of Taron Egerton. The Secret Service provided an over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall send-up of spy movies, becoming one of the year’s best surprises.
And yet, even with how high I was on the first film, I went into the new sequel with some reservations. I was unsure that itwould truly innovate on the series and was also worried that it would succumb to the unfortunate sequel-itis that mires many blockbuster films, resulting in a predictable and unimaginative follow-up. While The Golden Circle is certainly less original than its precursor story was, the action remains inventive and the plentiful jokes land more often than not, making for an enjoyably ridiculous romp that’s a worthwhile addition to the franchise.
One of my absolute favorite indie films of the past five years is Ana Lily Amirpour’s stylish vampire-noir, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. It tells a subdued, atmospheric tale of romance and horror while approaching genre conventions with a feminist take, all the while treating its viewers with striking visuals and an unforgettable soundtrack. It’s a film I love, and a debut that presented Amirpour as a visionary in the indie filmmaking scene; the film garnering an almost exclusively positive reaction from the larger film community including critics and fans alike.
Although Girl is her debut film, Amirpour’s expert work on the film gives the impression that she’s a veteran filmmaker; the film is just that impressively well-realized and notable. Which is why it’s surprising that her new film, The Bad Batch, comes off as amateurish by comparison. Amirpour serves as both the film’s writer and director (as she did on her first feature), and while her incredible aural and visual sensibilities translate over from Girl, it’s her writing that stumbles, lacking meaningful character development or a storyline worth investing in.
Is it possible for a man to be a complete rock star, on the opposite side of the world, in a country he has never visited, and never know about it? For many South Africans, Sixto Rodriguez was a lot more than rock star. He was social icon; an outsider who was saying the things they wanted to say but simply could not. Searching for Sugar Man (2012), directed by Malik Bendjelloul, is an eye-opening, heart-touching documentary on the legend and mystery behind the man simply known as Rodriguez.
Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary category at the 85th Academy Awards. Rodriguez opted not to attend the event because he did not want to overshadow, or take away from the creators of the film. This selfless gesture summarizes, on a few levels, the path of life chosen by Rodriguez, or, even, the path that he passed up.